People often misunderstand the Palm Sunday story. They see it as a high point in Jesus’ ministry before the crushing betrayal of Good Friday. We what the story tries to tell us. The crowds welcome Jesus so he can accomplish their agenda. They want the Romans Out. They see Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as a signal that their wildest dreams are about to come true. And so they cheer him on.
But when Jesus kicks the sellers and money changes out of the table, effectively shutting down the temple, things take a dark turn. The different groups who hold power now see how Jesus’ agenda is in conflict with their own. Suddenly Jesus has made enemies of almost everyone. He represents a threat to their agendas, so he must be stopped.
The Palm Sunday story warns us to examine our motives. Are our religious practices a self-serving way of getting what we want from God. Do we welcome God into our midst because we hope he’ll give us health, wealth and happiness? Do our religious rituals become the ends towards which our energies are directed, a way of compartmentalizing our faith or a license to sin? If so, then Jesus’ coming isn’t welcome, because he promises to disrupt our agendas. When he comes with an agenda at odds with our own, do we say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” or like the crowd five days later, do we cry, “Crucify him!”?
Questions for Reflection
- What religious practice do I do regularly (prayer, fasting, bible reading, giving, attending services)? How do they challenge me to change?
- Are there areas of my life I’m afraid God might ask me to surrender to him?
- What does loving and serving my neighbour look like during times of social distancing?